St Maarten/St Martin
18 December 2016 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather:The weather is getting better, a bit cooler with more clear days and less rain. In the week before today the forecast was for four clear days and three days with a chance of rain, never more than a 50% chance and totalling only a quarter inch. The daily high temperatures were 84 or 83F dropping to 78 at night.

The next ten days, however, will be moist with only one clear and one partly cloudy day, while the rest will have a chance of rain totaling just over an inch. The high temperatures will be 83F with one day at 84F and another at 82F. The overnight low temperature will be 77 or 78, basically about one degree F colder than early December. Below is a pano from Vikki Whitley showing a sunset view in Grand Case on 14 Dec. The partly cloudy days with a chance of rain make for interesting sunsets. She has moved to Grand Case from Canada and started a Facebook page of her adventures.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 5:41 PM. That provides 11 hours and 3 minutes of sunshine. That's only 3 minutes less than the newsletter of 4 December. As we approach the winter solstice (21 December) the days will get shorter, but the change per day gets smaller. So small in fact that there is a week before the solstice and a week after the solstice when each day has 11 hours and 3 minutes of sunshine, ie the change over the entire two weeks centered on the solstice is less than one minute. In 2017 the full moons will be 12 Jan, 10 Feb, 12 Mar, 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Tropical Wave is on the northern end of Galion Beach (closer to Orient Beach). The reef cuts down on the surf entering Galion Bay making it a good spot for children, even better because of the very gradual slope of the sand. There is a bit of breeze, especially out where the reef is just below the water level. In this area the wind is strong but the sea is calm making it great for beginner windsurfing. The pano below was taken from Paradise View Restaurant. Tropical Wave is essentially on the shore next to the Galion Beach label. They have all surfing equipment you would need plus boats and snorkeling gear. They serve a fine lunch with some less expensive wines, plus the usual beach drinks.

cover The Cruelest Month - $10 (Kindle) - From Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and his team investigate another bizarre crime in the tiny Québec village of Three Pines in Penny's expertly plotted third cozy (after 2007's A Fatal Grace). As the townspeople gather in the abandoned and perhaps haunted Hadley house for a séance with a visiting psychic, Madeleine Favreau collapses, apparently dead of fright. No one has a harsh word to say about Madeleine, but Gamache knows there's more to the case than meets the eye. Complicating his inquiry are the repercussions of Gamache having accused his popular superior at the Sûreté du Québec of heinous crimes in a previous case. Fearing there might be a mole on his team, Gamache works not only to solve the murder but to clear his name. Arthur Ellis Award-winner Penny paints a vivid picture of the French-Canadian village, its inhabitants and a determined detective who will strike many Agatha Christie fans as a 21st-century version of Hercule Poirot.

Also as usual, we borrowed the book from our library and listened to it on Martha's Kindle.

Sapphire Beach Club: If you are an owner at Sapphire, you can follow some of what is happening at the timeshare owners group on Facebook. Lately they have been talking about the expected arrival of a container of appliances, the normal maintenance fees, and the special assessment. On the right is a shot looking south from our lagoonside balcony showing the lagoon, the spit of land that is Nettle Bay, Marigot Harbor with a smallish cruise ship, and Créole Rock off Grand Case in the distance. The pano below shows some sailboats passing by our Caribbean balcony on what appears to be a great day for sailing.

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. At present, there are several sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.
SXM-Activities: At a sponsor party it was announced that UB40 will be headlining the 37th Heineken Regatta (2-7 March 2017). Exactly who is UB40 has been a bit contentious for the last couple years. The name "UB40" came from the Unemployment Benefit form 40. In 1978, Frontman Ali Campbell received a hefty compensation package from the UK's Department of Employment which he put towards funding musical instruments for the band members. In January 2008 it was announced that he (Ali Campbell) would leave the band. He seems to have changed his mind by January 2014 when he joined former members Astro and Mickey Virtue in a recording studio and toured as UB40. It's all mired in court cases because various other people were in the band over the years, including two of Ali's brothers. Nonetheless, he has said that he would be prepared to go to the High Court over the matter rather than settle out of court because his brother murdered his songs.

On the left taken from our Caribbean balcony is a committee boat and a entrant in the previous regatta.

Traffic: The Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority Corporation (SLAC), a subsidiary of Port St Maarten, asked the government to implement the suggestions that were in a traffic study from 2014. Shortly thereafter there was an editorial in the Herald that questioned how much could be done by changing roads and roundabouts, eventually deciding that restricting cars may be necessary. This led to a desire to waste tourists' time by forcing them to buy a local driver's licenses for St Maarten, much like Anguilla. I have heard that Holland has an agreement with many countries that says they will honor each other's licenses. Supposedly, the US and Holland are signatories and, by extension, St Maarten must honor US licenses. Somewhat like the friendship treaty between the US and Holland which has been ignored by St Maarten.

Travel: On Pearl Harbor Day, the Herald reported that the Dutch side is discussing a 10 NAF (about $6) departure tax to be added to the $36 that the airport already gets. It will exclude cruise ship passengers but include airplane and boat departures. The very next day, Christophe Emmanuel a member of parliament from the National Alliance suggested a tax on car rentals because locals are more likely to depart from the country than use a rental car.

Crime: The Herald reported that Francesco Corallo, the head of Atlantis Group (now Starz Casino) was arrested last week along with his Chief Financial Officer Rudolf Baetsen. Corallo will be prosecuted in Italy for money-laundering, tax evasion, and bribery of several politicians. Officials from Italy, the Netherlands, St Maarten, and France cooperated in the arrest and seizures. The Herald also reported that the recently arrested O'neal Arrindell, the owner of Checkmate Security, was released from prison.

Alcohol: For the holidays Sylvain has upgraded the coupon on his website. Normally the coupon is good for 10% off on any purchase, but during the holidays he is offering one of his best champagnes (Belin Rosé) for only $35 with the coupon. That's over 20% off. Check out the Select Wine Cellar website, print the coupon, and have a very happy New Year!

green logo Nature:On the right are five deer feasting on the leftover broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprout leaves in our garden.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in six years of operation our solar panels have produced over half the electrical needs for the house, my work shop, and a large animal barn. Our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: You know it is a small island when the solution to all problems is to push the sticky hand of the tax collector into tourist pockets. Traffic bad in Simpson Bay? Don't bother streamlining flow by having turn lanes, forcing buses to use bus stops, putting in sidewalks, improving public transportation, etc. Nope, the solution is to raise the cost of renting cars (via a SXM driver's license) such that fewer tourists will rent cars. Possibly fewer tourists will come. Trouble closing the budget deficit? How about adding $6 to the $36 departure tax. No, a local may want to depart, how about a tax on rental cars?


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on entertainment and dinner! That would be five prizes to one person.

Winners of the contest ending today
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Mike Masuicca
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Mike Masuicca
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Melissa Guillama
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Mike Masuicca
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Janet E. Horne
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Mike Masuicca
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Mike Masuicca

Current Contest: now until 19 February 2017
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two

Future Contests:
19 February to 9 April 2017 | 9 April to 25 June 2017 | 25 June to 1 October 2017 | 1 October to 24 December 2017
same cast of characters as current contest


Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form. One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining dinners and activities. I really check and a while ago Sulay entered 33 times for one contest, instead of increasing her chance of winning, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about a third of the entries for that contest.

Here's some comments from a past winner:

We met with Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar, enjoyed the tasting, and opted for the Belin Champagne for the free bottle. It was very good. I will try and find this at home to drink again. He was a very nice host. ... I enjoyed entering the contest and look forward to future entries. Over 16 days we only had only one 4 minute rain shower; otherwise the weather was beautiful. We tried the Hideaway Restaurant at La Vista. It was very good as were the other places we dined.


On 4 December the Euro was at 1.067 and today it is at 1.045. That's a 2% drop in only two weeks. Then again, the Fed just added a quarter point to their interest rate making dollars more valuable. The last time that the two currencies were at parity was in 2002, shortly after the launch of the euro.

With the Euro being so weak against the dollar it behooves those of us with dollars to check the exchange rate offered by restaurants again. For several years French side restaurants have been offering better than market exchange rates, especially for cash. If a French side restaurant offers a bad exchange rate, ask for your credit card to be charged in Euros. Assuming you followed my advice below and got a card that has no charge for foreign transactions you will get the wholesale rate on the exchange.

L'Escapade Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa, in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Nearby Ti Bouchon and Rancho del Sol are offering 1 to 1. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks and are subject to change.

There was a recent article in the NY Times about credit cards and travel benefits. Check it out here.

You should not be paying a currency transaction charge as there are many credit cards that don't have this onerous charge. My United Mileage Plus Explorer/Chase card no longer charges it and gets my first bag checked free for all United tickets purchased on the card.

We had a Capital One Signature Visa Venture card. It's true that frequent flier benefits could be used on any airline and there are no blackouts, but that is because you accumulate 1 cent worth of ticket for every dollar you spend on the card. Then you use that to buy a ticket. To buy our round trip from Albany to SXM costs about $700 meaning we would have to spend $70,000 in order to get the ticket. Frequently we can get flights on United for 37,500 frequent flyer miles, ie the frequent flyer miles on United are worth about 2 cents, about twice as much. In the Spring of 2014, Martha was offered a Capital One Quicksilver Visa Signature Card that gives us 1.5% cash back - no fooling around with miles. They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do provide rental car insurance. This has been our primary card as airline miles are not as valuable or as easy to use as they used to be. Consequently, we canceled the Capital One Venture card with a $30,000 credit limit. The newer Quicksilver card only had $18,000 limit. I asked if they could bump up the credit limit on the Quicksilver card. Seems logical, they were on the hook for $48,000 before I canceled, why not keep the total the same. They said it doesn't work that way. My reply was that when the Quicksilver card runs out of credit limit, I'll use my United card. Your loss.

We always notify our card companies of our travel. Chase and Quicksilver actually accept this info on-line, making it much easier than working through the hell of telephone answering systems.

There are discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets that may help you decide what card is best for you. The first one has a review of the new Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It gives you 2 points for travel related purchases and then allows you to take 20% off when purchasing your rewards through their Ultimate Rewards portal. It's tempting.


La Table d'Antoine
On a lovely Wednesday evening in late March we went to dinner at La Table d'Antoine in Orient Village. We had 7:00 reservations and the Friday night party (vendors and a singer) had brought in quite a crowd already. We did find a parking spot just outside the village square and we had a second row table waiting for us. I watched several customers being turned away, so think about reservations, especially on party nights (Wednesday and Friday).

We started with fizzy water as we looked over the menu. A very nice bit of roll arrived with a small tub of Buerre d'Isigny (below left). We looked over the small menu and certainly found some things that were interesting, but we found our main courses on the specials board. Our ap came from the menu and was a glass about half full with avocado and spices topped with crab. It came with several narrow slices of toasted baguette (15€).

It may have been seafood, but the spices were great with the bottle of Crozes-Hermitage from Jaboulet (right, 34€). That's Antoine the waiter displaying the bottle, not to be confused with Antoine the owner/manager, who took the night off. By day he manages Kakao Beach and he is over here in the evenings.
Martha had a fricassee of squid with tomatoes and chorizo (25€, above left) and I had a hamburger topped with morel sauce, morels, and foie gras (29€, above right). My dinner came with mashed potatoes and zucchini. Martha had rice and a bit of salad (right). Martha's dinner was wonderful in its conception, but a bit too salty (and she likes salt). My dinner was over the top in the Bistro Chic fashion that Antoine and his chef/partner Renaud Oster are trying to achieve. We really like this restaurant and its style. Hamburger frites and steak frites are bistro fare, add morels in a morel sauce and top with foie gras and you've got bistro tres chic. The restaurant is also reasonably priced. Our total meal came to 109€ translated to $125 using 1.15€/$. We left another $10 on the table for attentive service from several members of the wait staff. We rather liked the large bottle of ginger rum (above center).

Dino Jagtiani at Temptation Restaurant says that "Thanks to support from Krug, all season long Krug champagne will be available by the glass for $25 or $89 for a half bottle".

Daniel at Daniel's by the Sea said that they weren't planning anything special. I pointed out that being open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, on Christmas Eve, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day was pretty special.

Momo at Ti Bouchon sent along his new menu for this high season. It's up on his website already. It features one of my favorite chefs on the island: Thierry Delaunay.

Melanie at Le Pressoir sent along their menu (in English and French) for this year. It's up on this website. If you want high quality classical French with some island influences, you'll like this menu. They have received some black truffles for the holidays.

Chef Wendell at Big Fish has won the Crystal Pineapple award again this year, making it two in a row. We have had some fantastic meals here and no corkage fee on Tuesday is one of the world's greatest inventions. Bring a great bottle of wine and pay retail (but tip your server well). For Christmas they three different three-course meals at attractive prices.

Christian and Brigette Moreau, original owners of Sol é Luna, have opened a new Italian bistro called Altro Italian Bistro. It's in Porto Cupecoy with a terrace and open kitchen serving lunch and dinner everyday. He will prepare fresh pastas "Altro style" meaning a different approach of Italian cooking, featuring fresh pastas and organic wines with affordable prices. There is an ever-changing three3 course menu for lunch. There is a website, but no menu or photos yet. The wine list is in place and Sylvain from Select will be supplying wines by the glass.

News and Changes: We frequently post some dining photos to Facebook. Less frequently we post activities and other things related to SXM or food. If you're interested, I trust you know what to do.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

The list of annual closings for area restaurants has been removed, starting with this newsletter as essentially everyone who is going to be back this season, is back and running at this time.
Here is the current list of the ARCHA members contributing to the security and clean-up of Grand Case. They would appreciate your continued support of their efforts. A blue oval sticker is displayed at businesses that participate in this much-needed endeavor.

Hotels and Residences:
Grand Case Beach Club
Le Petit Hotel
Bleu Emeraude
Auberge Gourmande
Bistrot Caraïbes
Piazza Pascal
Le Pressoir
Le Tastevin
La Villa
Ocean 82
Calmos Cafe
Blue Martini
Le Soleil
Le Cottage
Tijon Perfumery
La boutique D'Anaise
La Boutique D'anaise
Cotton Club SXM
La Boheme
Sexy Fruits
Simple Elegance


Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites.

Chanteclair Bistro
Endless Summer Beachwear
Kakao Beach
Lucia's Taxi Service
Pizza Galley
Select Wine Cellar
Table d'Antoine
Tropical Wave

SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed to arrange medical transportation services. We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have. Check out their offerings.

Kindle: We now have have two Kindle devices, as Martha bought a Kindle Fire, She paid about $200 for the device without the 3G option. It connects to WiFi which we have here in NY and at the condo in SXM, and nowadays, at almost all restaurants, hotels, etc. The Fire is essentially a tablet computer with Kindle capabilities and a camera. If you add Amazon Prime to the package you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon, access to a lending library of Kindle books with no expiration, and access to over 40,000 movies via Amazon. The Kindle Paperwhite e-book from Amazon is a great thing to take on a beach vacation. It is glare-free, weighs less than a half pound, and is one-third of an inch thin. It's only $119. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)

Even though Martha has a Kindle and is quite happy with it, she still downloads audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well and keeps us amused as we drive or work in the kitchen. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."  

Erich S. Kranz
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